Chapter One

July 1971, Islington

'Master Sirius.'

Sirius' eye snapped open, locking onto the sliver of predawn light slipping between his velvet curtains as it played on the ceiling.

'Master Sirius.' Kreacher's voice was barely more than a whisper, but the annoyance in the house-elf's tone set Sirius' teeth on edge.

'I'm awake.' He snapped under his breath, 'What is it?'

'It is morning, Master Regulus needs to be in his room.'

Sirius sighed and swung his legs out of bed, he glanced towards the foot of it and wasn't surprised to see the tiny form of his brother, curled in a ball under a blanket, one hand tightly gripping a battered, stuffed hippogriff. Kreacher hurried out of Sirius' way, opening the wardrobe and starting to pull out clothes for him for the day.

Sirius scooped up his brother, he was so slight and Sirius could carry him easily. Regulus stirred and blearily pushed his face into Sirius' shoulder, snuggling in. 'Come on, back to bed.'

He tucked the sheet and blanket up over Regulus and left him to get another few hours sleep before he had to get up. Back in his own room, Sirius eyed the clothes Kreacher had laid out. The elf himself had disappeared, probably to start on breakfast. He was a little surprised to find himself dressing in a smart black suit, with a deep Slytherin green shirt. He buttoned the silver buttons of his waistcoat, and adjusted the tie in the mirror, the silver threads in the black silk of it caught the light. A tiny smile lightened the frown that had been caught between his brows. Clothes like this meant going out, and not just to see family, but out in public.

Downstairs, the doorbell jangled. Sirius' head snapped up, it was still early. Something was going on. He flew down the stairs, feet absolutely silent on the carpet and skipping lightly over the loose floorboards near his mother's door. It wasn't worth disturbing her before she had her breakfast.

He came to a stop outside the dining room door, and opened it carefully. Normally this early it would only be his father at breakfast, Walburga took her breakfast in bed and Regulus was a later riser. This morning though, Orion was not alone in the dining room. Sirius' mother sat at the head of the table, pristinely dressed in swarths of velvet. His father was standing, talking to a tall, straight backed man Sirius recognised immediately.

He drew himself up and walked confidently into the room, 'Good morning Grandfather, good morning Father, Mother.'

Arcturus turned, even at seventy his eyes were sharp, calculating, 'Ah Sirius.' He held out a hand for Sirius to shake. Sirius was fairly certain he had never hugged his grandfather. He glanced at his father as he stepped back, wondering what was going on.

Orion nodded, 'Take your seat.' And waved his father to sit down too. On Sirius' plate was a thick parchment envelope, addressed to Mr. S. Black, The Largest Top Floor Bedroom, 12 Grimmauld Place, Islington, London

Sirius couldn't help the excitement that bubbled momentarily in his chest, there was only one thing this could be.

'Go on boy, open it.' Arcturus encouraged and Sirius pulled the wax seal off as quickly as he could.

His eyes skimmed over the ink, this was it, he was going to Hogwarts. He looked up to see his father's steel grey eyes watching him, waiting, 'It's from Hogwarts, it says I am expected on the Hogwarts Express on the first of September.'

'Congratulations.' Orion smiled lightly.

'Why congratulate him? He has yet to do anything.' Walburga's voice turned Sirius' blood to icy slush, 'Except be born and manage not to be a squib.'

Orion's gaze became hard, turning from his heir to his wife, 'I presume you will not be accompanying him to Diagon Alley then.' It was barely a question.

'Of course not. Regulus' new tutor arrives today.'

Sirius looked up sharply, 'Just Regulus'?'

Walburga sneered at him, 'Of course. You will be at Hogwarts, why should I employ a tutor for you?'

'Walburga…' Orion's tone was threatening, barely veiled anger at her showing him up in front of his own father.

Arcturus considered Sirius, 'The boy is old enough to take himself surely.'

'You don't know how it is now Father,' Walburga said dismissively, 'There are blood traitors and worse everywhere. Orion, you should take your son.'

'I cannot, I have the Wizengamot.'

Sirius sipped the china cup of milky tea Kreacher put at his elbow. Sometimes Orion allowed him coffee, but only when it was the two of them. He pulled a face and reached for the sugar bowl.

'Why not send the House-elf?' His grandfather pressed.

'I will need him here.' Walburga's voice was starting to take on a shrill edge, Sirius swallowed his bacon and as quickly as he could politely he rammed in another mouthful.

'Now you are being ridiculous.' Orion condescended.

'Ridiculous!' Walburga's wand was in her hand and Sirius choked down the last of his tea, and then froze in place. If he was still, if he was quiet, they might ignore him.

'Is this necessary?' Arcturus sounded surprised, but Sirius couldn't quite believe he hadn't heard about his parents' dramatic fights. But worse, it drew his mother's attention back to the middle of the table. Back to Sirius.

'Necessary?' She screamed, 'Not of course it isn't necessary! Of course I should just be abandoned here all day with my poor boy. While your son galivants around the Ministry, and his ungrateful, nasty little child goes and rolls in the filth just like his fa-'

'Silencio!' Orion's spell caught her off guard, she hadn't been looking at him in her rage.

Sirius barely breathed, his heart only had chance to beat twice before he felt Kreacher's long fingers curl around his wrist and he allowed himself to be dragged from the room as the screaming started.

He felt the crushing cold descend into his bones, the false calm that kept his feet moving, knowing that today, this week, possibly the rest of the month would be awful. Knowing that his grandfather would be involved, old as he was, he would have opinions or maybe worse. The cold burned deeper, pushing Sirius to take control, while it lasted. He looked down and shook his wrist free from the hated elf, 'Kreacher, bring Master Regulus to the kitchen from his breakfast.'

'Kreacher was going to, Master Sirius.'

Sirius felt the growl in his voice, heard it, even through the chill in his chest, 'Don't talk back to me.'

Kreacher bowed, his snub nose brushing the rug at their feet, 'Master Sirius should know there is a guest in the drawing room.'

'Oh go and shut your fingers in the oven. How could you not have said!' He spun and ran up the stairs, cursing the elf. How could he let a guest in when his parents were fighting. How would Sirius cover this?

A deep breath and Sirius opened the door, 'I'm deeply sorry you were kept – Uncle!'

Alphard Black, a thin, tall man with his long tail of black hair neatly tied at the nape of his neck, turned and grinned, 'Sirius, good morning.' He held open his arms and Sirius careened across the room, in moments he was wrapped deeply in a hug. Alphard wasn't the tallest of the Blacks, and Sirius already came up to his shoulder. He held him tightly, even as a muffled crash drifted up to them from the dining room. 'Ah, she's up then.' Alphard sounded wryly amused as he gave Sirius one final squeeze and let him go, 'Did it come?'

Sirius nodded, not bothering to hide the grin, 'Yeah, so I have a month and then I'm free.'

'Mmm, indeed.' Alphard winced, almost flinched, as shouting echoed up to them, 'How about you and I go to Diagon Alley? Did you manage breakfast?'

'Some of it.'

'Well, second breakfast can be in order.' Alphard led the way back down the stairs.

'Second breakfast?'

He laughed, 'Oh, it's from a book. You can read it next you come to stay with me.'